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Quartered Safe Out Here by George MacDonald Fraser,
By A Customer
This review is from: Quartered Safe Out Here (Paperback)
George MacDonald Fraser is best known for his eleven volumes of The Flashman Papers in which the arch coward, fornicator and liar Sir Harry Flashman blunders his way through peril after peril, effectively tramlining the key military conflicts of the nineteenth century. Flashman succeeded mainly on account of its historical accuracy. In Quartered Safe Out Here - an autobiographical account of MacDonald Fraser's own military campaign in Burma during the latter stages of World War II, again the author strives to be as accurate as it is possible to be after a time lapse of some fifty years. He sets down his experiences always mindful of the fact that his reader is likely to be of a generation conditioned by a modern philosophical tradition that is essentially pacifist. Few modern historians, he believes, are able to grasp that the generation who went to war in far flung places such as Burma were conscious of the full horrors of war and had themselves been conditioned by tales of sheer terror from the earlier campaigne and as youngsters has grown up in the atmosphere of post-war disillusionment that followed. A job had to be done, that of repelling an aggressor. Argumants concerning the rights and wrongs of imperialism and the sacraficing of young British lives deep in South-East Asia were not on the agenda.
Macdonald Fraser provides a compelling, subjective account of the day-to-day life and death struggles of Nine section 'Cumberland Borderers' charged with the task of entering Japanese occupied territory, driving back the enemy and cutting off his escape routes as part of 17th division's 'big push.' Often the offensives he describes involve bizzare and quite humorous incidents such as the time he wound up treading water down a stagnant well while the battle raged on above, and the time he had to leap for cover when he noticed some lunatic about to load a bomb down the barrel of an anti-tank gun the wrong way. Detailed descriptions of contemporary military hardware and some wonderful characterisations of those 'Cumberland boys' make this an interesting and entertaining book. Complimentary to these accounts of the author's own subjective experiences are his introspections regarding some of the more serious issues involved in fighting a war, such as the psychological implications of killing enemy soldiers and the desire for avenging atrocities. MacDonald Fraser offers short shrift to anyone insensitive enough to enquire into his personal thoughts about taking the lives of Japanese soldiers. His conviction in respect of the absolute necessity of killing in open warfare is absolute and unequivical and one senses that he came through it all unaffected psychologically. The comparisons he makes between the aftermath of his campaigne and the level of psychological counseling offered to 'traumatised veterans' of the Gulf War are thought-provoking to say the least, as are his thoughts in respect of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
To his readers 'GMF' is a superstar. His works are brilliantly entertaining, accurate, humorous and full of irony. Quartered Safe Out Here is all of these things and contains one other vital ingrediant - honesty. It is a remarkable personal memoir - I wish there were more like it.